Cover Story: Three Mainers who have kept the state
Senator Christine Savage, Donald Raye and Walter Parady changed Maine transportation for the better
By Douglas Rooks
It was an emotional and inspiring evening. More than 200 friends, family and co-workers filled the banquet room of the Augusta Civic Center on November 2nd to pay homage to three individuals – a stateswoman, a financial expert and a career construction supervisor. All three winners of the 11th Maine Transportation Achievement Awards have made indelible contributions to transportation in Maine in very different ways. The Maine Better Transportation Association presents the awards every two years to individuals whose careers show a deep commitment, vision and leadership in the development of Maine’s transportation system.
MBTA President Lauren Corey opened the evening and welcomed the audience. Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors – a former state transportation commissioner and a past Transportation Achievement Award winner (1994) – was the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Walter e. Parady was the first honoree of the evening, receiving his award from Herbert R. Sargent of Sargent Corp. Sargent is the grandson of Herbert E. Sargent, founder of H.E. Sargent and the man who gave Parady his first construction job. Parady first signed on with the firm in 1937, almost two full decades before President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 creating the U.S. Interstate system. Sargent talked about how Parady’s career spanned a major shift in the industry from a time when a deal or a job was sealed with a handshake to modern times when construction supervisors like Parady have to cope with liability issues, safety regulations and rigid performance specifications.
Parady’s first construction job at Sargent was at the Norridgewock Airport. It was wartime, and the project – improving the airport so that the military would have a place to land in an emergency – was considered a matter of national security. When work at the airport was complete, Parady decided to stay on with Sargent and remained with the firm, working through the years with three generations of Sargents, from founder H.E. Sargent, his son and successor Jim Sargent, to Sargent Corporation’s current president, Herb Sargent. Although Parady had no construction experience or related education, Walt proved well suited to the business. He took on additional duties with Sargent, working first as a cost accountant and a timekeeper, and then foreman.
By 1947, he was promoted to project superintendent and was soon put in charge of significant highway projects. Sargent was the only Maine dirt contractor working heavy grading contracts on the Turnpike Extension in 1953. Herb picked Parady to build both of the projects he picked up in Gray and Hallowell. Walt then went on to build many large I-95 grading contracts from Brunswick to Houlton, starting with the first Interstate job in Augusta in 1957. In late 1963, when Herb needed a “pusher” to go up in the winter and do the immense site work for the new International Paper mill in Jay, he called on Walt. In six months through the winter and spring Walt cleared and grubbed more than 100 acres and moved more than a million yards of tough dirt and rock.
In 1973 Herb again called on Walt to do the site work for the new Scott Paper mill in Skowhegan. Another big tough job under bad conditions, and Parady did it well. Throughout his 60-plus-year career with H.E. Sargent and later Sargent Corporation, Walt has been known among co-workers and clients as a natural leader and skillful problem solver who brought a wealth of onthe- job experience to every challenge encountered on the job. All the while, Sargent said, Parady played a key role on major infrastructure jobs that improved the mobility and quality of life for people throughout the state. During his career, Parady earned a reputation on the job as a “skillful problem-solver,” a “natural leader” and a “pusher” who could inspire crews to achieve excellence on the job, no matter the challenge. During the presentation, Sargent read a heartfelt letter from Parady’s daughter Jean Kelliher, who recounted the great pride her father took in his work and career as a builder of Maine’s most important highways. Sargent also thanked Parady for his hard work and dedication to excellence that had inspired so many others who came to work with the company over the years.
Donald W. Raye was the second honoree of the evening, cheered on by a legion of family members and friends who laughed through a “roast” by Raye’s business partner and friend Beth L. Sturtevant – including a story about a skunk encamped under the porch of the Raye family home.
Between the fun and revealing anecdotes, Sturtevant painted a portrait of a loyal and dedicated individual who has done so much for Maine and its transportation system. Raye has worked with the MBTA and other industry groups for nearly three decades, giving selflessly of his time and talents. He was first recruited to join the board of the Maine Good Roads Association by Al Prince. Raye was an experienced CPA with many ties in the Maine community – and he turned out to be just the right person to help the financially struggling organization. Raye and the board arranged for a bank loan and developed a financial plan and budget to get the organization back on track. Maine Good Roads survived and, in 1983, was renamed the Maine Better Transportation Association.
Don served as president of MBTA from 1985-1986, and remained active on the board through 2005, serving on various committees including finance, legislative, convention and membership. Don also believed that the MBTA should do more to encourage young people to become involved in Maine’s transportation communi ty, and was instrumental in establishing the MBTA Educational Foundation as a separate non-profit entity. Today the foundation awards several transportation scholarships every year, and its assets have grown to more than $250,000.
Don continues to be a leader on the foundation’s board, as he has since its inception. Book smart and downto- earth with close ties to many diverse communities in the state, Raye has been an eloquent spokesman on transportation issues and has served as an advisor for several transportation organizations and educational foundations.
Back during the referendum campaigns to gain public approval for the widening of the Maine Turnpike in the 1990s, Don was part of the speaker’s bureau assigned to visit granges and service clubs throughout the state to speak on why “The Widening,” as it came to be known was a good thing for Maine.
Raye is the co-owner with Sturtevant of CCB, Inc., a Westbrook-based construction firm. He is a CPA by trade and earned his business degree from the Portland Business College, graduating in 1965. In addition to his work with the MBTA, Don has served on the board of the Construction Financial Management Association and the Associated Constructors of Maine. He has been a trustee of the ACM’s educational foundation. He also has been president of the Norway-Paris Kiwanis Club, a trustee of Norway Public Library, a corporator of Norway Savings Bank, and a founder and president of the Growth Council of Oxford Hills. He and his wife, Verna, have four daughters, one son and nine grandchildren. Many of his family were in proud attendance at the November 2 event. In accepting the award, Raye spoke of how much he has enjoyed working with the MBTA over the years. Raye’s words reflected the sense of community and purpose that he has brought to every effort he has undertaken as a member of the organization. “We have fun at the MBTA, but there also is a mission,” said Raye. He spoke of the continued need to push for investment in Maine’s transportation network.
“The challenge is greater than any other time in my 30 years.”
The final award of the evening went to Senator Christine R. Savage who is currently serving her fourth term in the Maine Senate and her sixth term on the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. Savage’s daughter, Sandra, presented the award as several generations of the Savage family, as well as many of her fellow Transportation Committee and caucus members, looked on.
Sandra Savage presented a personal look at the public servant, describing her mother as a “quick learner” with a deep sense of right and wrong and a profound commitment to the people of Maine.
Savage was honored for being “a relentless champion for investment in Maine’s transportation infrastructure” during her 13-year legislative career and for her willingness to take “courageous stances” on issues she felt were important, regardless of political consequence. She has supported issues that have made Maine highways and bridges safer, including several transportation bond issues and other funding measures.
A Maine native, Savage has lived most of her life in District 22. She graduated from Union High School and still resides there today. About her background, she is characteristically modest, saying that “it isn’t very impressive.” Still, everyone who knows her will say that modesty, as well as her quiet intelligence, selflessness, strong work ethic and fundamental resolve are key to her success in championing issues of importance to her midcoast constituents and to citizens statewide. She began her working career in 1975 as the bookkeeper and office manager for the town of Camden. She served in that job for 16 years, including a short time as interim town manager. She spent five years as town manager of Warren, and in that position, her duties included serving as treasurer, tax collector and road commissioner. It was her experience as road commissioner that inspired the legislative leadership to ask her to serve on the Transportation Committee in 1994. She also has been co-chair of the Intergovernmental Advisory Commission and currently serves on Engrossed Bills and Conduct & Ethics, in addition to the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. Savage will retire from the Maine Senate at the close of the 2008 session – because of “a silly law that says she must,” her daughter quipped during the presentation referring to Maine’s term limits law. Savage’s history and perspective have been invaluable to the Transportation Committee and the people of Maine. As a former road commissioner, she knows first hand the financial and practical challenges faced by municipalities as they strive to ensure that their roads are safe. As a long-time member of the Transportation Committee, her institutional memory and understanding of the Highway Fund and Maine Turnpike Authority budgets have been essential to fellow committee members and to the transportation community at large.
Once she puts herself behind an issue, she can be persistent. That was the case during the most recent session of the legislature when she introduced seatbelt safety legislation, “An Act to Make Failure to Wear a Seat Belt a Primary Offense.” She had introduced similar legislation two times before, and was undaunted when those two measures did not pass. In fact, she faced opposition from many corners – including from members of her own family – but she persisted. Passage of the bill is one of her proudest legislative achievements. Her daughter said her mother believed that no matter how harsh and personal that battle became, “it would all be worth it if there are lives to be saved.”
The MBTA presented each recipient with a framed antique map of Maine, as well as a gift. Music was provided by the UMA Cafe Jazz Ensemble. All proceeds of the event go to the MBTA Educational Foundation. The MBTA congratulates and thanks all of our Transportation Achievement Award members for their years of service, leadership and dedication. Thanks to you, Maine’s airports, rail, highways and bridges are safer and our communities are more connected!